How to Find and Replace Text in Word

You’ve just finished typing a presentation that’s due in about 15 minutes. But before you can celebrate your moment of victory, you realize that you’ve spelled your client‘s name wrong and have missed the double Rs in their company name multiple times throughout your document.

Cue: An aggravated scream.

The good news is that changing these small errors is an easy fix on Office 365. You can replace as many words as you want within seconds on Microsoft Word using its super helpful Find and Replace functionality.

This article will guide you through the necessary steps to help you find and replace text in MS Word.

Ready? Let’s begin.

How to Use Microsoft Word’s Find and Replace Feature

Microsoft is one of the leading companies in the world. It’s because it prioritizes its customers and comes up with innovations that can make their lives easier and more convenient.

The Find and Replace feature on MS Word is a shining example of this effort.

You can use this feature to find specific words in your file and then replace them in case there are some last-minute changes. This can even be useful when you make mistakes in the doc while typing or want to accommodate those last-minute client changes.

We’ll show you how to replace text in Microsoft Word, depending on the computer device you use.

How to Change and Replace Text in MS Word on Windows

It’s no wonder that all Windows devices have built-in Microsoft programs considering it’s a product developed by the Microsoft company themselves. If you find yourself using the word processor often for making notes or presentations, you’ll be especially thankful for the Find and Replace functionality.

Here’s a short step-by-step guide to using the feature in MS Word on Windows devices:

Step #1 Open Microsoft Word on your Windows device.

Step #2 Click on the Home tab on your top menu bar. A secondary menu will appear on your screen.

Step #3 Select the Replace option located on the top-right-hand side of your screen. Alternatively, you can also press Ctrl + H. The Find and Replace pop-up box will appear immediately.

Step #4 Type in the phrase or word you want to locate in your Word doc in the Find what field under the Find tab.

Step #5 Click on the Replace tab on the top menu bar. Type in the word you want to update in the Replace with field.

On clicking on the Replace button, the changes you want will be made one by one in the Word doc. However, if you want to update all fitting instances at once, you can click on Replace All instead.

Microsoft Word will give you a confirmation of the replacements made in your Word doc. It’ll look something like this:

How to Change and Replace Text in MS Word on Mac

Now that we’ve covered Windows, let’s see how you can use the Find and Replace feature on a MacBook. Here’s how to proceed in MS Word when you’re using an iOS device:

Step #1 Open the Microsoft Word document on your Mac.

Step #2 Take your cursor towards the top of your screen until you see your Mac’s top toolbar. Click on the Edit tab. A dropdown menu will appear.

Step #3 Click on Find from the displayed menu options. You’ll typically see a Replace… option on your screen.

But if you don’t, simply press Shift + Command + H on your keyboard. A side navigation bar will appear on the left-hand side of your computer screen.

Step #4 Enter the word or phrase you want to replace in the doc in the Search for… field.

Once you’ve finished typing the incorrect word or phrase, type in the right word or phrase that you want to replace the incorrect one with in the Replace with… field.

Step #5 Click on the Find tab to locate the matches. Once you’re sure the match is right and highlighting the words you want to change, select Replace. This will replace every individual match one by one.

Again, if you click on the Replace All button, all the matching words and phrases will be changed at once.

After the changes are made, you’ll see an “All Done” message just below the Replace and Replace All buttons that indicate the replacement of the intended word or phrase.

Advanced Find and Replace Features: Everything You Need to Know

You can take this whole shebang of replacing words and phrases to the next level thanks to Microsoft Word’s Advanced Find and Replace option. In other words, you can use the Advanced settings to simplify the process further and make the results even more accurate.

Follow the previously stated steps to open the Find and Replace pop-up box. On it appears on your screen, click on More.

You’ll immediately see a slew of additional options like Match case, Use wildcards, Match prefix, Match suffix, and so on. Here’s how the Advanced Find and Replace settings look like:

Each one of these has its own unique functions. Let’s discuss them in more detail below:

Find whole words only

If you check on the Find whole words only box, MS Word will treat your search term as an entire word and won’t look for your search term within other words.

Example: If you’re searching for the word “stand,“ the search feature won’t show you the word “standard.”

Use wildcards

Use wildcards is one of the more advanced search options that allows you to use question marks, brackets, asterisks, and other similar symbols to modify your search.

You see, a wildcat is a short string of characters – or a character – that represents multiple characters in a search.

Example: <(int)*(net)>

Sounds like (English)

As the name suggests, the Sounds like option finds similar-sounding words to your search term. This is best for finding homonyms and words that have varying spellings.

Example: This is common for words that have both UK and US variants. For instance, you can have both “colours” and “colors” on a document.

Find all word forms (English)

This option allows you to look for the word you searched for, along with other instances that are either plural or in a different tense.

Example: If you search for the word “be” after enabling the Find all word forms option, you’ll also find the words “are“ and “is“ highlighted as they are the different tense forms of “be.”

Match prefix and Match suffix

Checking off the Match prefix or Match suffix fields will limit your search to words that have the same beginning or the same ending, respectively.

Example: Suppose you enable Match prefix. When you search for the word “love,” Microsoft Word will find the words “love“ and “lovely.“ However, you won’t find the word “beloved“ highlighted in the search results as it’s a suffix of love.

Ignore punctuation characters and Ignore white-space characters

Again, this search option is self-explanatory. It tells Microsoft Word not to take up spaces, periods, hyphens, and similar attitudes into consideration.

Example: After clicking on the search options, when you type in “color block”, you’ll also see “color-block.”

When to Use the Find and Replace Feature of Microsoft Word

The whole point of the Find and Replace function in Microsoft Word is to allow MS Word users to search for target text – whether it’s a specific word, a type of formatting, or a string of wildcard characters – and replace them with whatever you want.

Typically, here’s why you should use this feature:

  • When you want to maintain absolute consistency in your document
  • When you want to speed up typing and formatting tasks
  • When you realize last-minute mistakes and want to find and then replace your errors
  • When you’re writing a document that includes words with varying spellings. For instance, if you typically follow US English, and are typing a doc according to the rules of UK English, the Find and Replace feature would be super helpful to identify and change spelling errors.
  • Adding special characters to words
  • editing partial words and phrases
  • Correcting words that you may have misspelled in a hurry. For instance, if you type “h?t” instead of “hat” and enable Use wildcards, you’ll find it highlighted in your search.
  • Eliminating extra spaces
  • Changing the separator character in numerals
  • Reversing currency symbols

Concluding Thoughts

As you may have realized, the Find and Replace feature of Microsoft is a lifesaver, to say the least.

It can help you save tons of time, which would otherwise have been wasted in looking for errors and then replacing them. Whether you are a student, an intern, or the CEO of a company, this is a functionality that we all can be very thankful for.

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Bryan Wise
Bryan Wise,
Former VP of IT at GitLab

Incredible companies use Nira